Article

Old-Fashioned Values in the New Age: Hi Desert Kia Experiences Online Success

July 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Daymond Decker - Also by this author

How does a car dealership that has only been in business for six years become the No. 1 Kia dealership in California? It holds honesty and faith to a high degree and institutes excellent customer service, a great Web site and Internet team, and a strong desire to help its customers.

Hi Desert Kia in Victorville, Calif., owned by Carl Rossman and John Scott, is making use of its virtual dealership, www.HiDesertKia.com. Internet Director Talmage “Teddy” Hughes said the average visit to the site, designed by BZ Results, is about nine minutes, which is six to seven minutes longer than visits to the dealership’s old site.

Hughes believes customers appreciate the thoroughness of the Web site. All the information is at their fingertips, the inventory is updated weekly, and employees give quick responses to customers’ questions. In fact, the site has an automatic responder that sends out an e-mail after a lead is generated, and the customer will receive a call within an hour.

Going All-Digital
When Hughes took over as Internet manager in October 2007, his goal was to eliminate all other forms of advertising: print, TV and radio, but only if he could still generate top numbers. So far, they have been able to make some cut backs on more traditional advertising while still maintaining strong leads.

When a consumer visits the site, but doesn’t come to buy a car, the dealership sends the lead 25 e-mails over 35 days. This aggressiveness ensures that Hi Desert Kia stays on that potential customer’s mind, and Hughes said that’s a major factor in the dealership’s high closing ratio. In the last five months, Hi Desert Kia has increased its Internet sales by 60 units a month.

In March 2008, the site generated 443 leads, 364 appointments were set, 154 of those were kept, and 74 units were sold. Before the new site went online, the closing rate for online leads was five to six percent. Now the average has jumped to 24 percent. The goal is to sell 150 units per month by the end of the year and to capture 10,000 potential-customer e-mail addresses. 

Dedicated Employees
At Hi Desert Kia, there are six Internet department employees, and they have strong relationships with one another. They also have strong relationships with their customers. Hughes said that even after customers have purchased a car, they will call the Internet department for questions – even about parts and service – because they are confident they will be well taken care of by the Internet employees.

Hughes said it’s the employees that set them apart from the competition. They work well together and communicate well. They are all cross-trained in different aspects of online needs, so they can help or cover for each other when needed.

Keeping Track of the Numbers
Another factor that sets the dealership apart from the rest is BuzzTrack. It provides the dealership reports on statistics on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, which allows them wise marketing decisions based on activity.  “Due to newfound success with BuzzTrack, we have the capacity to cut print, radio and TV advertisements and still maintain top numbers,” said Hughes.

Hi Desert Kia also uses its virtual dealership as a tool to help customers obtain financing. The number of people who use the tool outnumber those who fill out a quote request.

Brand Marketing
Hi Desert Kia puts its Web site on just about everything. Local billboards boldly display the Web address. Additionally, their bulk e-mails help push their name out.

But honesty is really what drives customers to come in, Hughes said. He believes that honesty is the best policy. Customers who trust you feel a tighter bond with the dealership and are therefore more likely to recommend your Web site, which equates to more leads. They don’t use any third-party lead providers to supplement their Web traffic.

The Future
The dealership is looking forward to a bright future. Some goals Hughes has for the virtual dealership:

  • Sell 150 cars a month by the beginning of next year through the Internet department. 
  • Eliminate all other forms of advertising other than Internet.
  • Expand the Internet department to 15 people.
  • See 2,500 hits per month to the Web site.

The success of Hi Desert Kia’s Internet sales is about more than just hard work. “If you have no faith, you have no success,” Hughes said. “Have faith in yourself and in what you do. Faith gives you confidence.”

Vol 5, Issue 5

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